Healing Herbs: Learn to Make Infused Oils and Balms

HGTV blogger Meagan Francis describes making medicinal herbal oil infusions. 

Calendula

Calendula

Orange and yellow calendula blooms are pretty in the garden, but when dried, they can be added to boiling water and steeped for about 15 minutes to make tea. Strain the tea before using; it’s traditionally been used to relieve sore throats.

Photo by: National Garden Bureau

National Garden Bureau

Herbs are renowned for their ability to soothe rashes, bug bites, minor cuts and other common skin irritations. If you’ve got an herb garden at home or access to herbs at your local market, why not try making herb-infused oils to add to your family’s medicine chest?

You’ll need:

  • Dried, coarsely chopped herbs. Calendula (pictured), comfrey, plantain, St. John’s Wort and lavender are popular ingredients for soothing oil infusions. Got fresh herbs? Learn how to dry them here. It’s easiest to work with dried herbs, since fresh ones contain water which may lead to rotting or mold.
  • Oil. Olive and sunflower oils are good choices. Be sure to use fresh oil so that the infusion will last longer.
  • A glass jar. Canning jars work nicely, but any jar with a lid will do.
  • A strainer and cheesecloth or fine-weave towel.
  • Bottle or jar for storage. Amber glass blocks light and may help your infusion last longer.

How to make herb-infused oil:

  1. Prepare your jar. Make sure the jar is clean and very dry. Again, any water in the jar can lead to spoilage.
  2. Fill the jar to the top with herbs.
  3. Pour oil over the herbs slowly. Using a chopstick or knife, move the herbs around to make sure all air pockets are filled with oil. Add enough oil to completely cover all the herbs, filling right up to the brim of the jar.
  4. Cover the jar, give it a few shakes, and put it in a cool place inside your house. Every now and then, give your jar a shake. It will be ready to use in 3-6 weeks. The jar may ooze or leak a little, so place it on a plate or towel.
  5. Strain the oil into your storage bottles through a cloth-lined strainer. Give the herbs a final few squeezes to get the last of that herb-soaked goodness.
  6. Cork and label your bottles. The oil should last at room temperature for up to a year; two years if you add a capsule or two of vitamin E, a natural preservative.

Herbal oils make lovely gifts and can be used as a massage oil or added to the bath.

You can also turn herbal oils into soothing salves by warming 4-6 ounces of oil in a double boiler or a glass container set inside a pot of water on the stove. Gradually add about a cup of grated beeswax and stir until the mixture melts. Add a little vitamin E, then pour into clean, very dry tins or small jars.

Depending on the herbs you used, these can be helpful for itching and rashes and can make an ultra-moisturizing lip balm. Enjoy!

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